The Spider

Sunday, December 2, 2007

This occasional feature, reported by bloggers around the globe, weaves together the hottest stories on the Web.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The Chilean billionaire who brought credit cards to his country's junta-enforced free market in the 1970s is now injecting Facebook into its democracy. The only potential presidential candidate to join the social-networking Web site, Sebastián Piñera crushed his likely competitors for the 2009 election in a recent poll. Luis Ramirez, founder of the One Computer Per Child movement in Chile and of the Web site, wants Piñera to use Facebook to usher in another trend: digital access for Chile's poorest children. But among the "Causes" displayed on Piñera's profile, such as "Stop Abortion!" and "A Boyfriend for Romy, Dah and Cony," UCPN is nowhere to be found. At least, not yet. "If Piñera joins our cause through Facebook . . . we are sure we can convince him about our campaign's goal," Ramirez said in an e-mail. " 'In Facebook we trust.' "

-- Will Sherman is a freelance writer who lives in Santiago, Chile. He blogs at

BARKS OF PROTEST: As Iranian journalists say, "Some stories beat you over the head like a baton." Reza Valizadeh, the founder of Baznegar, the leading blog platform in Iran, was arrested last week for reporting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had spent more than $640,000 on four security dogs. Aside from the expense is the problem that, according to Islamic law, dogs are unclean and "haram" -- forbidden. Valizadeh remains in prison, and the government called his story a "psycho-war geared toward weakening the security teams."

-- Solmaz Sharif is an Iranian journalist who lives in New York. She blogs at

PUSHING THEIR LUCK: Kurdish nationalists who took their cause online recently discovered that in Turkey, free Internet publicity comes at a price. Last month, Nil Demirkazik was charged with aiding a terrorist organization after a judge admitted into evidence photos she had posted on Facebook. The pictures showed her wearing guerrilla fatigues and holding an AK-47, both characteristic of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist organization. In another recent case, a 17-year-old was arrested in Diyarbakir after he posted videos of Kurdish demonstrations on YouTube. Both defendants assumed that they couldn't be prosecuted for online activities. Not so. The Turkish parliament recently established a committee on Internet crimes.

-- Mustafa Domanic is a financial analyst who lives in Istanbul and London. He blogs at

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